Friday, July 30, 2010

On Guilty Pleasures

It's Friday! What does everyone have in store for the weekend? If you're looking for something to do in the Richmond, VA area I suggest you check out the inaugural Richmond International Dragon Boat Festival. Races will take place at Rocketts Landing from 8:00am-4:30pm and there is also a lineup of food vendors and traditional Chinese entertainment scheduled for midday. Also on tap is the 21st Annual Big Brother Big Sister Duck Race on Brown's Island. Watch 20,000 rubber ducks race down the river to the finish line, check out great vendors, and plenty of free activities for the kids. It's going to be a busy day on the James River! Don't forget your sunscreen.

Last night Ken and I watched our first episode of Jersey Shore, after being told all last summer that we had to watch it; that everyone was watching it. Aside from being completely lost about what was going on, I thought it was awful. Which I guess is the point... right? Anyways, the arguing, drama and constant "bleepage" was not my cup of tea, but I'm not mocking anyone who watches it because I can definitely understand why it can be found entertaining. Which got me to thinking about guilty pleasures.

Urban Dictionary has it best I think, saying that a guilty pleasure is "something that you shouldn't like, but like anyway." Or in my thoughts, something that makes everything better if just for a few moments in the crazy lives we lead!

Everyone has a guilty pleasure, whether it's dessert after lunch on Friday afternoons, a second glass of wine with your meal, those Twilight books we're all too old to be reading (I have yet to read a book or see a movie), or reality television such as the classy Jersey Shore.

My guilty pleasure is that crazy show that comes on ABC Family, of all places! I can't get enough of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. It's my guilty pleasure because I have no idea why I like it! The acting is horrible, the stories are unbelievably twisted, and there are way too many references to sex coming from various 13-18 year olds. It's like a freaking train wreck though; I.JUST.CAN'T.STOP.WATCHING. I tune in every Monday for all the gab, and go to bed feeling guilty as a gumdrop for liking this teenage smut.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Air Temperature Control Freak!

It's no secret, I'm a control freak. I hate situations that I have no control over and often avoid whereabouts in which I can't manipulate the outcomes to my liking. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. At work, I did every project to perfection. I kept pushing people until things were absolutely right. At home, when I can't cure my daughter's diaper rash with the regular run-of-the-mill diaper cream, I call the pediatrician and become antsy when they cannot give me an immediate answer. Have any control freak issues yourself? Commiserate with me.

One thing that I am absolutely crazy about is the temperature of the air around me. I suppose I'm a little bit like Goldy Locks; it can't be too cold, it can't be too hot - it has to be juuuuuust right. Seriously. Or I will freak out. The following is story about my journey to temperature control bliss without having to harm my husband.

For a year and a half my husband and I lived on the 6th floor of a walkup building (that's no elevator for all you non-city readers) in the West Village of Manhattan. The building was so old that it used to be a tenement building. Needless to say, there wasn't any air conditioning. So, after trying to beat the heat for a solid month, we made a trip to Home Depot to purchase a portable air conditioner. It was roughly 60 pounds, rolled between rooms (living space and bedroom), and resembled R2D2 (which is what we proudly named it).



Eyesore, yes? But it worked, and we were blissfully temperature happy.

Oh wait. One thing. The air conditioner promptly turned itself off when it became full of water. It held about a gallon of water, which was great when it was humid, but picture this: You drift off to sleep under a cozy blanket, your air conditioner gently fanning you with the lowest of hums and lulling you to dreamland. Four hours later you awake drenched in sweat with no AC, and since you closed the windows to use R2D2 in the first place, the air around you is now stifling.

This is definitely the least favorite of my AC experiences, but when I think back on it I cannot help but to laugh. We promply passed on R2D2 when we moved to our apartment in Long Island City, and I'm not going to lie, it was kind of hard to say goodbye. After rolling R2D2 from room to room, dumping his water in the middle of the night, and sitting directly in front of him in the heat of the day, it was almost like saying goodbye to a pet.

Our apartment in Long Island City was an upgrade. Separate air conditioning units in the living room and bedroom. Unfortunately though they were comparable to the type you find in most hotels, with only three options: High, Low, and OFF. When it came to my preference, high was usually the choice. I would rather freeze under several comforters than be hot. In any case.

I couldn't have been happier when we moved to the suburbs and purchased a home with central air. Amen! Except for one thing. I was pregnant, and the battle of the thermostat was becoming a huge issue at our house. My husband would constantly be sneaking over and inching it up a couple degrees to see if I noticed. Of course I noticed, I was pregnant! Finally (and thank God I was blessed with such a wonderful husband) he just decided to suck it up, and spent most of his indoor time in summer 2009 wearing a sweatshirt and long pants. Thanks babe!

A few weeks ago my parents were due to arrive in less than two hours for a 4 day weekend and I suddenly felt hot. I could hear the air running, but I couldn't feel anything. Thermostat check. 74 degrees. But I had it set on 71! I began to panic. Luckily, a friend was able to fix it for us in less than 24 hours, which is pretty amazing in the Virginia summertime. But when the air wasn't working right I became a different person. I lost my head. I got upset that I couldn't fix the problem myself. I got angry that I was hot. I cried because I had no control.

What a blessing air conditioning is though, right? I'm sorry that I ever took it for granted, and I'm thankful every day that we have it. Since then, I've spoken with many more people, and it seems like the thermostat battle actually exists in most American homes. Does it at yours? What are you a control freak about?

My husband and I have since agreed that 72 degrees is a good compromise for airy bliss. He'd like it more at 75 and I'd like it more at 68, but meeting in the middle has proved to be working so far.  :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tech-Free Night

In a world where we cannot buy time, everything costs money, and work has to be done, our relationships often take the bottom of the totem pole. When we hear so often that 50% of marriages end in divorce, is it really so surprising? Yes, it's a scary statistic, but with everything going on in the world it's highly likely if you don't find the time to put into your relationships. Some might call it "going their separate ways." I call it emotional neglect. The bottom line is that all relationships take work, and there are fun ways that you can up the anty with how much time you spend together.

When my husband and I lived in New York City, we were both living the high profile career life (not as high profile people, but for high profile people). It wasn't quite as glamorous as it sounds. I know that NYC sounds like all bells and whistles (I used to think so, too) but honestly with how exhausting work was, this is a little what my nights were like: Fight subway congestion, get on train, try not to step on anyone's feet, avoid eye contact with creepy people, get off train, walk 1/2 mile to apartment building, arrive home 7:15pm, order various takeout, crash on the couch and eat dinner while watching Wheel of Fortune, check blackberry for emails, get ready for bed. Not much time for my husband in there, hmm? Well not really.

Today it's the same thing. Even though we have more time at home, we often find our conversations to just be filling in the blanks; what we did that day, note-ables about the baby's diaper rash, that sort of thing. It makes me really glad that we adopted what we call "Tech-Free Night" even before we got married. I'm thinking about it now because we haven't had one in quite some time, and I think it's time to pencil one in.

Basically, tech-free night takes out all the things that generally distract us in an evening- phones, television, internet. The things that we turn to for distraction from a long day. The first time we decided to have a tech-free night we looked at each other like 'ok, now what?' but with a little creativity you can really spend some quality time together. Board games, a bottle of wine, CONVERSATION. It's fun to reconnect in new ways. My husband and I made homemade sangria one night. Another night we built a gingerbread house. And yet another we made some paintings on canvas for our living room.

Try it! Can you go tech-free all night?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mommy Groups

One of the best things I have ever done for myself was to join a mom's group before I actually became a mom. A little unconventional, I know, but I was pregnant at the time so I felt like I had some sort of "in." I felt like I didn't have a lot of other options. It's like when you get married, and suddenly all of your single friends are always too busy to hang out afterwards. You know they find it taboo to be around you, like you might give them some sort of wedding bug. It was the same thing when I became pregnant. A lot of my friends without babies were a little standoffish, like they didn't want to be caught drinking whatever water I was drinking. And since I was the first of the pack to get pregnant I guess it had to be my rite of passage to start making new friends that already had babies.

I was going to wait until after my daughter was born to join a mom's group, but the move to Virginia was extremely lonely. Besides my husband, I didn't know a single soul. And joining the mom's group was a big turn around for me. Suddenly I had a group of women that was supportive and understanding of everything I was going through pregnancy related, and they weren't hundreds of miles away either. Don't get me wrong, I love all of my friends no matter how far away they live, but sometimes you just need to have some face time with other people!

I had a boss that always said you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose when your friends have babies. If you're a mom and haven't joined some kind of support network yet, you're truly missing out. Moms need other moms to survive!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Delicious & Easy Frozen Treats

Summertime means a lot of things - the beach, sunscreen, trips to the park, and one of my favorites - ice cream! What kid doesn't love ice cream? I'm already dreading the day when my daughter learns the joy of the ice cream truck and I have to start shelling out dollars left and right and join the ranks of parents who are furious that the ice cream truck always seems to come around at 5:30pm (what is up with that?)

In the meantime while I still have the upper hand, I try to keep things healthy and fun for my daughter, and I can only pray that these good habits last down the road. And while it's ok for baby to have a lick or two of ice cream, here are a few better ideas (and most big kids won't even know the difference either!)

Banana Cream
Baby's first frozen treat! As bananas are one of the first fruits that babies often try, this is an instant win almost always. It's super easy, super delicious, and super healthy (though you don't have to tell your kids that part!)

Take 3 or 4 bananas, peel them and cut them into chunks. Store in the freezer overnight. This first step is very important. The first time I tried this I must have been too excited, and I put the whole banana (peels and all) in the freezer. My husband had a heck of a time trying to cut the peels off later - oops!! After a night in the freezer, simply put frozen bananas into a food processor for a minute or so. The outcome will look a little bit like that ridiculously expensive space-aged ice cream that you can purchase at ball parks and amusement parks (I won't name names, but you know what I'm talking about). It's fine to eat like this, or, use a big spoon and with a couple of stirs it becomes a creamy banana goodness. Banana Cream! Yum! My daughter loves this, and so do I!

For an extra treat for older kids, squirt in a little chocolate syrup swirl or even a glob of strawberry jam.

Blueberries & Milk
Another summer favorite is blueberries and milk. I know it might sound a little weird, but don't knock it until you try it! As before, take some blueberries and freeze overnight. (For younger kids, cut the blueberries up into smaller bites before freezing.) All you do next is put the blueberries in their serving dishes and drizzle with milk, using a little less than you would for a bowl of cereal. The milk will instantly freeze to the frozen blueberries, creating a delicious berry cream treat! For extra sweetness, sprinkle sugar on top. Mmm.

Real Ice Cream
Once in awhile you just have to have the real deal. My husband and I have learned the benefits (and rewards) of making your own at home! A good ice cream maker is within the $50-$100 range, and if you're a fan like I am the investment will totally be worth it. Simply follow the directions that your ice cream maker comes with, and then get creative! For example, my husband and I made a delicious strawberry flavored ice cream by following the maker's direction for a simple vanilla, and by adding 2 packets of strawberry flavored Carnation Instant Breakfast. The result was delicious and packed full of vitamins!

Summer treats don't have to be bad for you. Get creative and enjoy!

Got a summer treat to share? Email me at hollycurell@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 5 Things List

When my husband and I found out that we were expecting, we did what all good parents do and started to focus on life after baby. We reads books together, did research online, and talked to our other parent friends. Time after time we came back with the same advice - Lower Your Expectations. I remember at the time being a little put off by this so called "advice." After all, my life as a blackberry carrying, tricks-up-my-sleeve career woman had to be a lot harder than handling a baby. Right? With the move to the suburbs I was also given the ultimate gift from my husband: the ability to stay home with our children. With nothing else to focus on it had to be a piece of cake.

So all that advice about diligently making lists of who would do what chores around the house once baby arrived went right out the window. We could handle this. (Heck, I was going to handle most of it by myself. Everyone would see!)

Well anyways... once our daughter arrived our world was turned upside down. What a blessing she was, but what a nightmare keeping up with life was becoming!

In the beginning I couldn't let it go. I was still excessively doing laundry and scrubbing toilets and making sure that the house was spotless in case anyone decided to drop by and see the baby. It wasn't until at least a month in that I finally took some of that advice and actually lowered my expectations. Nothing has to be perfect. These moments with our kids go by too fast as it is, let's not miss them because we are too busy dusting the chandeliers.

Enter the 5 Things List.

Personally, I don't think that men and women should have assigned "jobs" around the house. You both live there, right? Granted, my husband will take care of the pest control because bugs freak me out, and I will iron his shirts (simply because I do it better). This is kind of an unspoken thing though, a little piece of our love for eachother. When it comes to most household chores, it's anybody's game. And I like that. My husband will agree that I do more around the house than he does, but that is simply because I'm home more often. As a balance, we created the 5 Things List.

Basically, it's just a list of 5 Things that we pledge to get done that evening before surrendering to sleep. 5 Things that must be done before our butts hit the couch and the TV is turned on. (5 Things that keep me from being a nagging wife and that keep him from being frustrated with the way the house looks.) It could be anything. Clean the cat litter box. Pay the cable bill. Take out the trash. Sometimes we even find projects that we can allocate as 2 or 3 items. For our family, it was the perfect way to lower our expectations without driving ourselves (or eachother) completely crazy. And sometimes we'll even put something fun in there too, like "Look up vacation options." It's both something productive and enjoyable that we can do together, because that togetherness is also a fine balance when baby is in the picture!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hello, blog.

Start a blog.

Those three words have been strung together on my mental list of things to do since the moment I realized that not only was I pregnant but my husband's job was moving me out of New York City and to what is all too commonly called "SUBURBIA."

Flash forward seventeen months and you can find me in Central Virginia with a precious, rambunctious eight month old baby girl, a husband of the highest quality, and two spoiled rotten cats. I sit here typing this with dirty dishes in the sink, blocks strewn across the floor and sunscreen printed hand prints littering the lower half of my windows. Why? Because nap time belongs to me, and that other stuff can wait until later. Because moms need other moms, and it's my civil duty to put myself out there and post stories, opinions and ideas that other moms can relate to.

This is Holly at nap time.